Monthly Archives: July 2010

Patriotic Potatoes

The heat wave continues. We opted not to go to Maine for the weekend because of the weather predictions. There were some showers on Saturday, but not much rain at all. Friends on the other side of town said they had a deluge, so we were in some kind of dry pocket. That’s too bad because the garden could have used a long cool drink. Sunday was sunny and dry all day.

We’ve been eating lots of salads and other cool, low- or no-cook meals: more gazpacho, beet salad, corn on the cob, and tomatoes with fresh mozzarella. My favorite was the Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad.

Last week, I found red, white, and blue baby potatoes at the Lexington Farmers Market. I was going to make them into potato salad for the Fourth of July, but I forgot to bring the potatoes with us to Maine. So my potato salad had a one week delay.

Usually, I make my potato salad with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. I got it into my mind that I wanted to make a creamier potato salad with fresh peas and dill. I cooked the potatoes and shelled the peas, but then, AFTER I’d been to the grocery store, I realized we were out of mayonnaise. There’s usually a jar in the fridge, Hellman’s or Trader Joe’s. Somehow, I didn’t know it was all gone.

I thought, “No sweat, I can make mayonnaise.” I buy fresh eggs, often from the farm where they are laid, so I am not concerned about salmonella. I pulled out the recipe card, and I sighed. In big letters at the bottom of the card, I had written “DON’T MAKE IN HOT AND HUMID WEATHER.” Obviously a note from a past experience. That corresponded to the exact weather we’ve been having, but the mustard dressing just wasn’t going to match the flavors of the peas. I went ahead with it.

Unfortunately, the recipe card said the mixture should be starting to thicken after about half the oil was added. It was still really runny. Maybe it was doomed. I added a spoonful of Dijon mustard and continued. Magically, as I added the remaining oil, it finally emulsified. I was back in business.

I was happy with the end result. The salad was the creamy potato salad I had envisioned. The green from the peas, scallions, and fresh dill gave it a fresh look. The patriotic colors of the potatoes gave it a fun look. It was delicious, though Howard says he prefers the one with the Dijon dressing. I’ll go back to that recipe next time.

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad
Serves 4 – 6

2 lbs small potatoes, a mixture of red, white, and blue-skinned, if available
½ – 1 cup peas (freshly shelled or frozen)
½ – 1 cup sliced scallions (2 or 3)
½ cup chopped dill
½ cup mayonnaise, store-bought or homemade (use more or less to your own taste)
Salt & pepper to taste

Scrub the potatoes, and pierce them 2-3 times. Steam the potatoes until tender, about 30-40 minutes. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into ½-inch slices.

Place the potatoes, peas, scallions, and chopped dill in a large bowl and toss gently. Add the mayonnaise and continue to combine, gently, until everything is coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gazpacho to the Rescue

The heat this week continues. It’s been hot, in the 90s by day, slightly cooler, though still warm at night. Howard’s fixed up a complicated system of fans that has kept the house reasonably comfortable. In the evenings, we’ve gone out to do errands, driving around in the convertible with the top down. What a life!

I’m still trying to avoid heating up the kitchen, but going out to eat is never quite as satisfying as eating at home.

A bowl of gazpacho is just the right thing for this kind of weather. No cooking required. I’m sure my recipe is far from authentic, but it hits the spot. I’ve making it since I was in high school though I’ve changed it over time.

One of the problems with gazpacho is that, here in New England, local tomatoes aren’t ripe as early as the hot weather sets in. A few years ago, in a recipe from a flyer I picked up at Whole Foods, I found an answer to that problem – canned whole tomatoes. Admittedly, it’s not the same as fresh tomatoes, but it certainly gives an early summer option for consistently good cold soup.

Here’s my game plan: In the morning, before I leave for work, I puree the tomatoes and seasonings in the blender. Then I put the puree in the refrigerator to chill for the day. When I get home, I chop up the vegetables, stir them in to the puree, and, voila, refreshing soup for dinner.

Serves 4

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes with juice
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp Tabasco
Generous handful of fresh basil leaves
1 cucumber
1 red or green pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
Salt & pepper to taste

Add tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, Tabasco and herbs in the blender. Puree until smooth. At this point, you can chill the puree before continuing.

Peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Chop the remaining flesh into ¼-inch cubes. Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds, Chop into ¼-inch cubes.

Combine the chopped vegetables (cucumber, pepper, and onion) into the tomato puree. Season to taste.

For a Mexican-flavored variation, I user lime juice instead of vinegar, ½ diced jalapeno for the Tabasco, cilantro for the basil leaves, and 2-3 sliced scallions for the onions.